Ramulose Ridge Vineyards Review
Address: 3061 Hendricks Store Road Moneta,Virginia 24121.
Phone Number: 540-309-6375
Tasting Hours: Thurs-Mon 12:00-5:00
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
Review Date: 9/28/2013
Reviewer: Anthony Marocco
A few weeks back, my fiance and I headed down to meet her family and family friends at Smith Mountain Lake. The car was packed with our belongings and, of course, a case of local wine. As we made our way down Route 29, we noticed a few wineries that I had yet to visit, including a couple close by Smith Mountain Lake. One was Hickory Hill and the other was not on any Virginia Wine maps. As it clearly had just opened to the public weeks ago, there was this gorgeous property greeting visitors with its steel carved sign bearing the name “Ramulose Ridge Vineyards.” After talking it over with the little lady, we agreed that we would swing by Ramulose Ridge on Sunday in the early afternoon….and that’s just what we did.
We followed the crushed stone-covered driveway past the stone and metal gates and were instantly greeted by a gorgeous, newly-built, modern facility. With the mountains outlining the horizon in the back of the property, the cool breeze coming off of the lake, and the vineyard nestled up against the back of the winery, this weekend of relaxation couldn’t have presented a better venue to enjoy some local vino in peace and quiet. As we walked in, we met Sandi Ramaker, the resident wine expert and winemaker, who introduced us to her son Mitchell’s wife who also works the tasting room and handles sales. Sandi’s husband, Jim, decided after taking a new position with the Virginia Candle Company in 2006 that they would utilize the 100 acre property they had purchased years prior to plant wine grapes and open a vineyard by teaming up with their son, Mitchell. Jim and Sandi, who were living in Hong Kong at the time, made their voyage back to Virginia where they previously owned the property as a vacation home. While in Hong Kong, Sandi took online wine making courses at UC-Davis, which would eventually set the groundwork for her role in the family business. Mitchell carries the viticulture knowledge and assists mostly with the vineyard operations, while Jim oversees the overall operation. As of 2013 the vineyard consisted of 3,000 vines, of assorted variety, for use in their 100% estate grown wines.
The winery itself opened just a couple weeks prior to our visit. The building consists of a tasting room and production facility on the bottom floor that also includes a patio for visitors to sit back and lose themselves in a glass of Virginia wine. The upstairs is a rentable banquet facility with full kitchen and gorgeous slate-slabbed patio covered with small ironclad tables and chairs. The space offers patrons the best glimpse of the property and the beauty of the Smith Mountain Lake area.
The tasting room is very open. Walking into the front door of the tasting room you will notice a granite topped ‘L’ shaped tasting bar, with a two-top table by the door and many cases of wine stacked against the back wall. After picking our brain a bit, Sandi mentioned she was looking for some customer input on how to create a warm atmosphere that offers the best amenities possible. She mentioned that they recently joined the Virginia Wine & Cigar Trail group, and that they intend to offer cigars to pair with their wines. I suggested including a small living room area with bistro tables and a bakery-style refrigerator to hold sandwiches, cheeses, and other spreads, as well as a rack for local fresh bread.
Now for the wines! We tasted ten wines, six whites and four reds. I will say that given the age of the vines, the experience of Sandi and company, and some of the methodology (and testing) used for this vintage, the wines were interesting. Some experimenting occurred with some less than favorable results (Syrah without oak, etc.), but being such a young prospering vineyard with impeccable vineyard management, I can’t pass judgment — at least not this early in the game. What I will say is that Sandi can make one hell of a Traminette. The 2012 Traminette ($18) is VERY aromatic with notes of jasmine, lilac, clove, and lychee in the nose. Flavors of honeydew melon and honeysuckle dance on the palate with crisp, bright acidity bracketing the sweetness and an off dry finish of cedar and a touch of star anise. Extremely fresh, lingering and pleasant and perfect to enjoy on its own or paired with a nice chicken salad sandwich. The rest of the tasting is included below, and like I said, this is a VERY young winery with a TON of potential. If you happen to be in the area of Smith Mountain Lake, be sure to stop by to take a peek at this family venture. They are very appreciative of all input and suggestions, so be sure to share your insights, as it helps them better their footprint in the Virginia Wine industry.
Vidal Blanc 2012 ($12) – nutty oak on the nose with crisp citrus fruit and toast on the palate, finishing clean, smooth, and refreshing
Chardonel 2012 ($14) – smooth crisp citrus and minerality dominate this white, adding light toasty notes to the slightly acidic finish
Viogner 2012 ($18) – light floral notes on the nose while dried apricot and honeysuckle make up most of the palate giving way to hints of spice on the soft crisp finish
Blush 2012 (Vidal Blanc & Chambourcin / $12) – dry herb and light fruit waft upward while a semi-sweet strawberry flutters across the palate finishing supple and smooth
Sweetwater 2012 (Traminette Sweetened / $12): ginger and lime combine on the nose while light sweet flavors of sprite carry into the tart finish
Syrah 2012 (Unoaked / $16) – Not sure what to make of it as soft spice and dark fruit battle on the nose leading to soft round dark fruit that finishes smooth – not my style
Chambourcin 2012 ($12) – Berry, oak and leather aromas clash with smoked wild berries on the palate finishing with a touch of leather and soft tannins
Cabernet Franc 2012 ($18) – Blackberry character dominates this Cab Franc leaving little of anything else detectible with the exception of a touch of oak towards the finish and a bit sweet for a Cab Franc
Blackwater 2012 (Cab Franc & Chambourcin / $12) – lush berry and cherry mingle with a fresh semi-sweet finish